The mother of one of our team members, Alex, is a nurse in a local hospital. The current pandemic has placed enormous amounts of stress on our hospitals and health care workers. Alex's mom, Vera, told her that nurses have resorted to pieces of paper taped to hospital room doors to used to track room entries. Shortly after, Alex realized there was a gap in the healthcare system for contact tracing within hospitals. We have all heard about various phone apps being created for everyday consumers but after some research, we found that nothing similar exists for hospitals. Therefore the idea for our project was born. A simple application that allows nurses and other staff to track their movements around a hospital with a simple scan of their badge.
What it does
Our application provides a way for nurses to track their movements around hospitals. We have built an endpoint that can be easily connected to hardware in hospitals to log the badge scans of nurses and other staff. We also built an interface for hospital administrators to enter their patients and which rooms they reside in, as well as log test results. Once a test result is logged, our system is able to trace which staff have come in contact with that patient and tell them to self-isolate. Our application also provides hospital administrators with a simple dashboard to track the number of infections in their hospitals, and how many of these have spread to staff members.
How we built forest
Our application was built with Ruby of Rails, React.js, and a PostgreSQL database. We used the
react-rails gem in order to have both our frontend and backend in the same repository. We also used the
devise gem for easy user management and authentication. Finally, we used
Bootstrap for our base styling, and
styled-components to customize things even further.
For more information on our development process, checkout our Process doc (which includes our figma mocks, and other backend planning).
Challenges we ran into
Our biggest challenge by far was having one repository for both the frontend and backend of our application. Prior to this project, we have had experience working on applications with separate repositories for the frontend and backend, with GraphQL sitting between the two. However, in this project, we experienced many difficulties with how to setup both frameworks, and how to communicate between the views and controller without GraphQL.
Another big challenge was the hospital system itself. It is a very large and complex system that provides healthcare services for millions of people. Understanding the scope and requirements was very tricky and we were constantly uncovering "gotchas" as we developed. We believe that our current application is a good start and could be easily integrated into the hospital system, but the future improvements sections details some areas we would like to continue development on.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We are both extremely proud of what we accomplished. As a team of two, and with one member having never been to a hackathon before (Heather) we are impressed with how much we were able to produce in just two days (and all remote!). This project is by far the largest personal project we have worked on and the quickest we have ever created a fully-functioning web application.
Additionally, we are very proud of how we worked as a team. Alex has extensive experience working with React and was responsible for most of the frontend development of the project. Whereas Heather has experience working with Ruby on Rails and was responsible for the backend development of the project. We are impressed with how well our skillsets matched each other, how we were able to 'divide and conquer', as well as teach each other along the way.
Finally, we are most proud of the impact this application could have on the community around us. Healthcare workers are risking their safety every day for the betterment of everyone in our community. However, what little safety they could have is the form of contact tracing is undeniably lacking. This project fills a gap in the healthcare system, and we are very proud of the potential impacts this project can have on healthcare workers.
What we learned
Our biggest learning by far is how much work projects can be. We started developing with a solid plan in mind for what we wanted to produce and accomplish this weekend. However, with the clock ticking we had to make cuts to some of our planned features (see the What's next section). Little things truly do add up. We also learned how important the division of work can be. We had clear tasks to be accomplished by each member which allowed us to make decisions efficiently and work quickly.
What's next for Forest?
We have big dreams for Forest, including speaking further with local hospitals about how we can make this project best suited to their needs. However, in terms of how we would like to improve Forest development-wise, we will be focusing on fine-tuning our contact-tracing and implementing the tracking of visitors. For further extension, we want to be able to track the symptoms of patients and use this information to infer potential cases and to analyze the data to provide more insights into potential outbreaks within the hospital.